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Leadership in an Age of Wolves: Fear, Feeling, and Control

This lesson is a part of an audio course Leadership in an Age of Wolves by Scott F. Paradis

In telling that creation story, Papa emphasized the notion that people – sheep in his story – possess the power.

It seems, though, most people believe they have very little power.

Think about this for a minute.

Is it that people don't have power?

Or that they willingly give up or forfeit their power; they choose not to use it?

Jeff and Papa's discussion, and the cribbage match, continue.

Let's start with the basics, the fundamentals; shall we?

Papa often used the "fundamentals" approach to school Jeff.

What is fundamental to human nature?

On the most fundamental level, people seek to survive.

That's a base instinct. We want to survive.

What motivates us, what drives us, what allows us to survive?

With limited strength and speed, we must rely on one another. There is no such thing as going it alone. By design and by necessity, we must care for and look out for one another.

Not being the biggest, the strongest, the fastest, nor perhaps even the brightest, in this competitive world characterized by an unforgiving environment and populated by myriad threats, to survive, we must rely on the community.

We're in this together; all of us.

An individual would not, could not, survive on his or her own. We must collaborate and cooperate to survive. And more than that, we must collaborate and cooperate to thrive and prosper. That's a community focus.

What about the individual?

What drives an individual?

Maslow theorized, individuals first seek to fulfill their immediate physical needs and to ensure safety. Then they seek to belong.

After belonging, people seek esteem – status!

People will do anything, and sometimes must do anything, for food and water – the essentials to survive, but there is something which influences even basic survival needs.


Fear is a base motivation. Fear, fear of loss – of something, anything – is the great motivator.

Of course, fear has a practical purpose. It keeps us from doing risky things. It keeps us from forfeiting our lives. But fear is an instinct which can and often is leveraged against us.

Papa stressed this point.

Since fear is a base motivation, people use it – fear – as the predominant means to manipulate one another.

Papa then turned to the other side of the equation.

Beyond survival; and if you were to summarize: What is it people desire most?

Jeff responded, they just want to be happy.

What does "be happy" mean?

People want to feel, FEEL good.

From moment to moment, people always seek to feel better.

Happiness for most translates into feeling good in the moment: a full belly, comfortable temperatures, a safe environment.

In the moment, when not threatened, we spend most of our time, energy, and effort changing how we feel. We are always seeking to feel better.

And if we have a full belly, we want to be entertained.

Jeff knew where Papa was going – a panem et cirsenses – the Latin phrase referring to the political strategy of appeasing the masses with bread and games.

Unfortunately, most people never anticipate the future consequences of immediate gratification.

We want to feel good right now; a full belly and engaging entertainment.

Papa summarized:

We are social creatures driven by two main urges: fear to survive; and the need or intention to feel better while conserving energy and putting forth as little effort as possible.

We always seek, moment to moment, to feel better.

Fear and feeling – pretty much in the moment.

We rarely consider the future. But, we can see beyond today.

That's right. We can see beyond today. So why do we make such poor choices?

Papa asked Jeff one of his favorite questions over the years. If you found a magic lamp and were granted one wish, what would you wish for?

What is it you desire most?

People will answer all kinds of things – but the themes of money and power typically emerge.

People say they want to be happy. And they believe what they need to get happy is the ability to control their own life.

They, we, you, and I want to be in control.

Given a magic lamp a one wish, most of us will ask for money and power; or for physical attributes which will ultimately give us the means to acquire influence, leading to money and power – this idea of control.

We seek power first to ensure we are accepted and belong, and then to acquire status.

Influence, money, and powerpoint to the same thing.

We aspire to be in control.

What most of us desire is to control what comes next. We want control over our lives.

Papa underscored the point.

If we are free from fear, we seek to feel good.

When we consider a time horizon beyond the present moment – we seek influence and power, in a word, control. We believe if we can control the circumstances, the conditions, the environment, and most importantly, other people, we can assure ourselves of feeling better.

Jeff concluded: And ultimately be happy.

The three base motivations: fear, feeling, and control.

For most of us, it all comes down to control. We want it. We believe we need it. We hope and pray and strive to have it.

But that, we think, unfortunately, is not how life works.

We're on a ride. That rollercoaster of life.

And with that, Jeff enthusiastically laid down his last card, counted up his points, and advanced his peg to win game two.

That meant a third game to decide the match.

Let's see who wins in our final session; lesson eight.

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Written by

Scott F. Paradis